The State of Hawaii has received a warning from the Federal Government over their use of street lights that are dangerous to birds and other wildlife. The Hawaii Department of Transportation currently uses about 11,000 street lights that need replacing. The current lights disorient birds when flying and in doing so increase their risk of collisions, injury and death. The lights also interfere with other wildlife such as nesting sea turtles.
The Hawaii Department of Transportation is required to use special lights that reduce light pollution and in turn the threats the lights pose to wildlife. To date, only about 1,800 such lights have been installed by the Hawaii Department of Transportation.
The Federal Government has noted that failure of the State of Hawaii to use the proper lights has resulted in the deaths of numerous wedge-tailed shearwaters. The penalty for the violation includes possible jail time and significant fines.
Photo © Jim Denny / kauaibirds.com.
The Arizona Department of Water Resources recently approved a groundwater pumping program that could cause the drying of the Sand Pedro river in southern Arizona. The San Pedro River provides critical stopover habitat for millions of migratory birds each year. In 1995, the area was designiated as a Globally Important Bird Area, an area of habitat deemed by conservationists to be among the highest value and priority to the protection of birds.
The American Bird Conservancy has requested Arizona Governor Janice Brewer to overturn the Arizona Department of Water Resources' decision. The conservation organization points out that the program will effectively drain the San Pedro River to support unsustainale growth in the nearby town of Sierra Vista. Many of the birds that are most likely to be affected by the program are protected under the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act and one species in particular, the Southwestern Willow Flycatcher—is protected under the Endangered Species Act.
The American Bird Conservancy characterizes the habitat around the San Pedro River as being a critical stopping point for migratory birds where they feed and rest. Among the birds that use the area during their migration are the Wilson's Warblers, yellow warblers, western yellow-billed cuckoos, gray hawks and green kingfishers.
Photo © Greg Homel / Natural Elements Productions.
The more stressed a mother squirrel is, the stronger and more robust the offspring she produces are, a new study by researchers from the Univeristy of Guelph in Ontario reveals. During pregnancy and after young are borne, female squirrels listen for cues about their social environment.
In crowded environments were squirrel populations are dense, female squirrels pick up on more frequent and louder rattles and calls (sounds made to declare territory). In response to these sounds, the females produce higher levels of stress hormone. In areas where squirrel populations are dense, the fastest growing squirrels are more likely to survive. When female squirrels were fed peanut butter with added sress hormontes, their pups grew faster than pups of females with low stress hormones. The study shows that despite the many negative aspects of stress, in some cases it can result in benefits.
Photo © Ryan Taylor / Univeristy of Guelph.
More about mammals:
Think Elephants International, an organizaton that promotes elephant conservation through research and education, joined forces with 12-14 year old students at East Side Middle School in New York City to design and conduct an experiment on how elephants perceive the world around them. The study focused on how elephants process visual clues made by humans and also examined how elephants responded to vocal commands. The study found that elephants do not easily interpret visual clues such as pointing. Instead, they process vocal commands more successfully.
The findings are important because they can contribute to better conservation strategies for protecting elephants. If elephants do not use visual information as a primary method of navigating their environemnt, we need to understand better what kind of information they do use whether it be, for example, sound or smell.
Conservationists at Think Elephant point out the importance of elephant conservation and estimate that without intervention in the next fifty years we could see elephants become extinct. Think Elephant plans to extend similar research programs to involve sutdents at schools in Thailand.
Photo © Paula Bronstein / Getty Images.
A recent study has revealed that the Asian subspecies of great bustard, one of the world's heaviest birds, migrates over 2,000 miles round-trip between its breeding grounds in northern Mongolia and its winter range in Shaanxi province, China. The discovery was made by a team of scientists led by Arizona State University biologist Mimi Kessler.
The research team spent two years in Eurasian grasslands studying many aspects of the great bustards' biology including the birds' habitat use, population genetics, causes of mortality and migration routes. Kessler and colleages carefully captured and fitted several great bustards with GPS transmitters so they could track the birds' migratory routes and for the first time find out how far the various populations of great bustards travelled each year.
They discovered that the various subspecies migrate different distances based on the climates they inhabit. The great bustards that live in Spain migrate less than a dozen miles each year; those in western Russia migrate about 600 miles each way between winter and breeding seasons. The Asian great bustards that breed in Mongolia, are the longest migrating subspecies, covering an impressive 1200 miles each way between breeding and wintering grounds.
Male Asian great bustards can weigh up to 35 pounds, while females are much smaller, weighing up to 11 pounds. The Asian subspecies is threatened and is declining due to poaching for sport and meat. They also face threats along their migratory route due to collissions with power lines and cables.
Photo © B.S. Chun / ASU.
In 1938, a local fish trawler delivered a handful of fish specimens he had recently caught to a small natural history museum in East London, South Africa. The curator of the museum, Marjorie, courtenay-Latimer, examined the specimens and one in particular caught her eye. It was over a meter long, bluish in color and had fleshy fins that looked similar to the limbs of a frog or other terrestrial vertebrate. The species is today known as the African coelacanth, a member of a group of fish that was, until 1938, thought to have become extinct over 70 million years ago. The fact that a living specimen of coelacanth had been discoverd was remarkable. The discovery is considered among the most important zoological finds of the twentieth century.
Now, a team of scientists from the A*STAR Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology and their colleagues have sequenced the genome of the African coelacanth and in doing so have opened the way for a deeper understanding of the evolution of early tetrapods.
The fossil record suggests that coelacanths have changed little during the the past 300 million years. An understanding of the coelacanth's genetic profile gives scientists a glimpse back in time to better decipher the development of fins, tail, ear, eye, brain and olfaction systems in early terrestrial vertebrates.
Coelacanths are large fish that live in deep sea caves. They are most notable for their fleshy fins, which resemble the limbs of land vertebrates. In 1997, a second species of coelacanth was discoverd in Indonesia.
Photo © Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology.
Although many species are threatened by the effects of climate change, some will benefit from rising global temperatures. One such species that has and is expected to continue to benefit from climate change is the Adelie penguin, a recent study reveals.
A team of scientists from the University of Minnesota reviewed aerial photography and satellite imagery gathered between 1958 and 2010 to gain a better understanding of the population dynamics of Adelie penguins on Antarcitica's Beafort Island. They noted that since the mid-1980s, temperatures in the Beafort Island region have climbed at the rate of about half a degree Celcius every ten years. During that time, snow and ice have melted on Beaufort Island, opening up new habitat for the Adelie penguins. As a result, the resident penuin population has increased dramatically.
The team hopes to focus future studies on finding out more about other Adelie penguin populations beyond Beaufort Island to determine the environmental changes they face and how those populations are responding.
Photo © Angelika Stern / Getty Images.
Three new species of terrestrial snails have been discovered in northern Thailand. The snails were described by scientist from Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok and the Natural History Museum, London. The new species all belong to the genus Perrottetia.
Unlike most terrestrial snails which are herbivores, the new species are all carnivores that feed on smaller snails, insect larvae and earthworms. The newly described speces also are noted for their being highly endemic, with each species occupying its own mountain range. The snails live in rock crevaces within limestone ecosystems.
Scientists point out that the limestone ecosystems on which these new snail species rely are being destroyed rapidly. This means that although these species have just been discovered, they face immeidate threats unless something is done to protect their habitat. According to one of the study's authors Dr Somsak Panha, "the three new Perrottetia species exhibit distinct morphological characteristics, which make for a great example for evolutionary studies in unstable environments. More than 50% of limestone ecosystems in this region have been or still are being destroyed. This astonishing case of biodiversity persistence gives a valuable reason to put effort in the conservation of this important world ecosystem."
Photo © Somsak Panha.
Geckos can cling to a variety of surfaces including leaves, tree trunks and even walls or glass. They can even cling to some surfaces when they are wet. Now scientists understand more about which surfaces geckos can cling to when they are wet.
Surfaces can be described as either hydrophobic (water resistant) or hydrophyllic (water attracting) depending on whether or not water beads or spreads easily over the surface. Hydrophobic or water resistant surfaces cause water to form beads or droplets while hydrophillic or water attracting surfaces enable water to spread evenly over the surface.
It turns out that geckos cling differently to these two basic type of surfaces when they are wet. When a hydrophobic surface is wet, geckos can cling to them nearly as well as they can to the surface if it were dry. But for wet hydrophyllic surfaces geckos have less traction and are not as capable of clinging to it when wet as they do when it was dry.
The research was performed by a team of scientists from the University of Akron led by Alyssa Stark.